I was pulled to this 2008 graphic novel from Amruta Patil after reading her story Atlantis in The Blaft Obliterary Journal. I liked the honesty of Patil's narration and her strong characterization. I was not disappointed as Kari is quite satisfying on multiple levels. It works as a strongly woven tale of a fish in an ocean of urban milieu.
The sexually-pronounced and assertive protagonist can be paralleled against any contemporary artists or writers. Few that came to my mind were Alison Bechdel, Erika Moen, Marjane Satrapi, Kuzhali Manickavel and Sharanya Manivannan. Patil's style is distinctive in its tonal confidence and ability to say the same thing in a loop with remarkable grip. She maintains an equal balance between Kari's mundane life as an advertising copyhead as well as her sexual adventures in realms of magic realism, and switches between the parallel worlds with utmost ease of a seasoned hand.
Kari boasts of strong, realistic characters, every mannerism detailed and conflicts exploited to create a story and world which is rich, almost TV soap-like in its interactions, yet poignant and provocative in its abstract excursions(allusions to an underground sewer and Kari's life as a boatman learning to "row clean through the darkest water").The book goes through portions great, average and repetitive, but told with a consistent honesty.
Patil uses diverse medium/art to evoke feelings of imagination, confrontation and oblique satire of the civilized society. The sections at Kari's workplace give way to some hilarious situations which are told in a solemn, deadpan style. Few sequences that come to my mind are when Kari pulls out thoughts from her sub-conscious to advertising pitches which surprisingly win her deal over deal and recognition from all and sundry.
Great book which tells a sometime depressing if black tale of urban life with its share of sexual existence issues, isolation, angst, guilt and threads from memories that just wouldn't go. Kari is a solid debut by Patil, and though I am criminally late in this review, I hope to make up for it by catching up on her future release, Adi Parva on time.
Interview with Paul Gravett